How they will know history

Sam and I reading our favorite quote at the Dr. King Memorial

I interrupt September’s “reflections on my practice” theme, today, not for a “I remember where I was on Tuesday, September 11th, 11 years ago”, even though I do.

On this day, as I answer Sam’s questions about what happened then, I am struck by how much responsibility I have, as his Mom, to shape how he sees a past he will never know first-hand.

And that’s a really big deal.

Today, he asked the hard questions, about why someone would attack the United States when we weren’t at war. About why people who weren’t soldiers were the ones targeted. About why we responded by attacking a country.

Today isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this.

When we were at Legoland a month ago, for his birthday, he said that what he wanted to build on the ‘earthquake’ table was “Kris Kobach’s office.” (For the record, I did NOT condone this.)

He also called Kobach the “Voldemort of Kansas”. (Full disclosure: I thought that was pretty funny. And kind of accurate.)

So, obviously, he listens when Mommy talks, even if it’s not directly to him, and it shapes how he sees things that even he–who understands so much–can’t totally comprehend.

He knows that Mommy has a soft spot for LBJ, his obvious failings notwithstanding.

He knows that, in our family, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a big deal, not just a Monday off work in January.

He knows that the FDR Memorial in DC is my favorite, and he knows why.

And I don’t regret this, this passing on of what matters to me, and some of the values I hold most sacred.

This summer, when we were at the MLK Memorial in DC, I read him one of Dr. King’s quotes, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Sam looked at me and said, “Like Abraham Lincoln.”

How could I not be proud?

But how can I–collectively, how can we–teach our children about the past while creating a space for them to shape their own beliefs? How can I encourage him to conduct his own analysis and reach his own conclusions? How can I impart knowledge, and core values, and give him reign to think through the spaces himself?

Because I care about how he sees our history.

But his ability to craft his own lens, and to accommodate the views of others as he comes to know his core principles?

That matters far more, for our future.

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2 responses to “How they will know history

  1. I wonder about the same things myself. My son is just 5 months, but as I take him to rallies and protests, I wonder how I can share my social justice values without just causing him to mimic them.

    • I know, Rebekah–I couldn’t hide my politics from my kids, even if I wanted to, but I am very aware of the outsized influence I have over them. We try to model respect for those with different opinions, and we ask them (especially my oldest, who’s 6) what they think, a lot, but I know that he thinks FDR is terrific and Hoover was terrible, and that obviously comes from me. It’s a lot of responsibility! Thanks for your comment!

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